Want to gaze into the eyes of a chatbot that looks back? Meet Nadia, the chatbot that can mimic human emotions, read your expressions, and learn from the experience.
The bot was created by Soul Machines for the Australian government in hopes of connecting people to disability services. Instead of waiting on the phone for a human, users can get information right from Nadia, which sees people through their webcams and adjusts its response to their emotional state.
Like Nadia, the future’s best artificial intelligence (AI) will demonstrate emotional intelligence (EI). It’s the future of customer service, and it’s going to change the nature of administrative work.
As AI takes over tasks normally assigned to executive assistants, operations pros, and other admins, Ninjas who continue to thrive will be the ones who embrace technology and master EI.
What Makes Artificial Intelligence So Important?
AI enables computer programs to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence. This set of technologies allows computers to perceive their environment, understand and analyze information, and make decisions.
The long-term goal of AI—building a computer that expresses general intelligence—starts with the Turing Test. Proposed in 1950 by famed mathematician Alan M. Turing, the test was intended to answer the question, “Can machines think?” For a computer to pass, a human interrogator asking questions to another person and a computer must be unable to distinguish between the two.
Turing predicted that by the year 2000, the average interrogator would have up to a 70 percent chance of making the correct identification. Unfortunately for Turing, he was a bit off—but that doesn’t mean AI hasn’t taken major steps forward.
In fact, the term artificial intelligence was coined in 1955 by computer scientist John McCarthy, and the first chatbot was built in 1966. Using only 200 lines of code, that chatbot—Eliza—offered emotional responses by imitating the language of a therapist. Despite knowing they were interacting with a computer program, trial users grew attached to the bot. Eliza musta been onto somethin’.
Since then, smartphones have catalyzed the age of artificial intelligence by forcing web designers to fit the full functionality of a website onto a much smaller screen. Apps were the ubiquitous answer, but as it turns out, most people would rather converse than interact with icons.
Emotional Intelligence in Machines: Where Are We Now?
So close, yet so far.
Like Nadia, who can assess emotions in humans and show the appropriate response, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, have, and express emotions. Emotionally intelligent people can also regulate their own emotions, harness them for constructive purposes, and skillfully handle the emotions of others. Sound familiar, Ninja?
When it comes to EI, research indicates that it’s a better predictor of success than IQ. And individuals with high EI are more likely to be successful in professions, such as administrative careers, that require emotional labor—like amplifying, suppressing, or faking emotions to comply with expectations. People with higher EI are also more flexible, better at working in teams, and adjusting to change.
The most successful AI systems will express EI almost indistinguishably from humans, according to Bronwyn van der Merwe, a group director for Fjord. But today, AI still struggles to assess human emotion based on facial expression, tone, and text, and chatbots max out at about 85 percent accuracy in the responses they give.
Despite these challenges, chatbots are becoming increasingly popular.
Twitter—the go-to platform for customer service issues at large companies—now offers chatbots that auto-reply to direct messages, assist customers without human intervention, and connect customers to a human customer service rep.
At its F8 conference this month, Facebook plans to unveil its next generation of chatbots. Designed to work inside Messenger, the bots will provide real-time news updates such as e-commerce deliveries, sports scores, and more. Curious how that’ll affect you?
In the future, chatbots will work alongside human customer service reps, according to the founder and CEO of Service, a company that uses automated technology and humans to solve customer service issues.
However, the bots aren’t a silver bullet for customer service (Schneider’s own words!). Inarticulate customers are likely to be inarticulate over chat, and sometimes humans have off days too.
What keeps them relevant is the fact that bots can gather information to prepare for interactions with human employees. And as bots get smarter, companies will trust them to do more, like scheduling appointments, replacing defective products, or awarding points after a bad hotel experience.
Even better, this will free up human reps to handle more complicated issues.
The Future of Administrative Work
From bank tellers to farmers and truck drivers, it seems there’s no end to the jobs AI is predicted to replace. Even Wall Street isn’t safe, thanks to robo advisers that can generate sophisticated financial reports in minutes. Welcome to the robopocalypse.
Despite the hype, AI is unlikely to send nearly 4 million Ninjas to the unemployment lines, according to Nanalyze, which analyzes disruptive technologies so investors can make smart decisions.
As artificial intelligence automates responsibilities that once required a human brain, such as scheduling appointments, taking meeting notes, managing email, organizing files, and producing reports, Ninjas will need to develop new skills.
Instead of clinging to old-fashioned software, successful admins will manage the workflow of automated office applications and add value by mastering skills AI has trouble reproducing: interacting with human beings.
Human beings are still uniquely suited to managing, motivating, and understanding people. Over the next decade, these soft skills will be career essentials, according to OpenMatters CEO Barry Libert.
These three tips are recommended to stay relevant:
- Examine your EQ. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses in assessing, motivating, and interacting with people.
- Invest in ways to develop your emotional intelligence. (More on that in a bit!)
- Don’t fight technology. Instead of resisting AI, make it complement your job.
How to Improve Your EQ Using Technology
AI can write its own software, computers drive taxis, and chatbots can learn. We live in interesting times. Whether you consider that a blessing or a curse, change is coming, and technology can help.
So when it comes to suggestion #2, these five programs offer ways to boost your EI:
1. iCounselor Anxiety
The ability to regulate your emotions is an essential component of EI. The iCounselor Anxiety app can help by teaching users how to manage their anxiety. Users rate their anxiety level on a color-coded, numerical scale, then receive potential solutions. The app also includes a reward system for facing challenges.
2. Fit Brains Trainer
By 2020, EI will be one of the top 10 job skills, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report. The Fit Brains Trainer app challenges cognitive and emotional intelligence with 31 science-based games. Users can track their progress and compare themselves to similar people.
3. Mood Meter App
Based on decades of research from the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, the Mood Meter App helps build EI that lasts a lifetime. Users can increase their emotional vocabulary, track their emotions over time to notice patterns at work and home, and learn effective strategies to manage stress.
4. Tactical Breather
This award-winning app was developed for soldiers during intense combat, and won second place in the General Wellness category of the Apps4Army competition. Users learn how to control their body’s physiological and psychological response to stress, including emotions, heart rate, and focus.
Emotional intelligence carries over into email, but digital communication requires a different kind of awareness. What seems kind in person may seem brusque over email. ToneCheck works with your Gmail or Outlook inbox to scan for words and phrases that convey unintended emotion. Negative tone is automatically flagged to prevent miscommunication before it happens.
Now that you’ve got a look into how technology will affect your role, you can start taking steps to ensure you’ll always be the more valuable asset—especially when it comes to the one thing a computer may never be able to do better than you.
Have you already started trying to boost your emotional intelligence? Do you feel excited by the changes AI will bring to your role? Sound off in the comments below!